Amid the voices in Israel’s political establishment on Tuesday roundly condemning the Syrian chemical attack and calling on the world to actively intervene, some called for Israel to rethink its own policy toward Syria and suggested taking limited military action.
“Israel strongly condemns the use of chemical weapons in any situation, especially against innocent civilians,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “Israel calls on the international community to fulfill promises made in 2013, and to remove chemical weapons from Syria.”
The “shocking pictures” from Idlib need to “shake every human being,” he said.
Aftermath of suspected chemical gas attack in Idlib , Syria on April 4, 2017 (REUTERS)
The prime minister said the atrocities in Syria underscore Israel’s need to have the ability to “always defend ourselves, by ourselves, against any enemy and any threat.”
President Reuven Rivlin called the events in Idlib a “stain on humanity.” He said the entire international community must mobilize to bring an end to “this murderous madness and ensure that images like these never return, anywhere.”
Rivlin said Israel, because of the Jewish experience, “will do everything we can to continue to help the survivors of the inferno in Syria. We know very well how dangerous silence is, and cannot remain silent.”
Some, however, advised doing more than mobilizing the world. Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi) called on Netanyahu to convene a special meeting of the security cabinet to discuss the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
Bennett said the meeting should discuss the humanitarian aspect of the attack, the security implications for the region and the “systematic genocide being carried out in Syria.” He said the use of chemical weapons against civilians requires the cabinet to “rethink its stance” regarding Syria.
Bennett’s comment was also articulated by former military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin, who in the previous elections was the Zionist Union’s candidate for defense minister.
Yadlin, who today heads the Institute of National Security Studies, wrote on Twitter that Israel “should establish a more active policy against the negative developments” in Syria.
It is time for Assad to “pay for his war crimes,” he said, adding, “Another chemical attack and the world stays silent.”
In an Army Radio interview a few hours later, Yadlin said Israel – which has reportedly destroyed over the last couple of years convoys carrying state-of-the-art weapons from Iran through Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon – should destroy the planes that carried out the chemical attack.
“We are not clean from the fact that 200-300 km. from our border things are happening that as Jews and Israelis it is forbidden for us to allow to happen,” he said.
“I think that the right thing that should happen tonight is that the same planes that attacked in Idlib will disappear, and be hit, not by soldiers that come on the ground, but there is precise weaponry that you can send from afar.”
What is happening in Syria, he added, is a crime against humanity, and the use of chemical weapons is a redline that Israel should set and enforce.
Former Likud minister Gideon Sa’ar, who announced his return to the political sphere on Monday, said on 103FM radio that toppling Assad is an Israeli interest.
“This aligns with our values and morals,” he said. “There is a tyrant who slaughters children with chemical weapons and is being supported by the darkest regimes.”
Comparing it to the Iranian threat, Sa’ar stressed that toppling Assad is distancing a pro-Iranian proxy from our borders. “There is no one worse than Assad, and he is controlled by Iran.”
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said Israel could not act as the world’s policeman.
“It is true that Israel is powerful, but whoever thinks we can be the world’s policeman and start to manage its conflicts is giving us exaggerated power,” he said. “For a number of years, we have taken a cautious approach in order not to intervene in a place where the damage we could cause would be great, and the benefit limited.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said the horrific attack demands a Western coalition that will act aggressively against the Assad regime and stop the massacre.
“Those [Assad] forces are brutally murdering innocent people,” she said. “Israel brings up in every international forum the necessity to fight the use of chemical weapons.”
Opposition lawmakers, meanwhile, called on the international community to help the citizens of Idlib and stop the bloodshed.
Opposition chairman Isaac Herzog said the events in Syria are a crime against humanity and called on world powers to intervene and stop the massacre.
“It is a murderous regime that lost its humanity,” said Herzog, pointing a finger at Assad’s government as bearing responsibility for the attack. “The US and the world should not stand with indifference against those horrific images; they should take the proper measures to stop this madness.”
Herzog then called on US President Donald Trump – “as the leader of the free world” – to lead an active opposition and protect the innocent victims.
“Giving legitimacy to Assad’s regime is effectively supporting it,” he added. “Their crimes are unacceptable.”
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid said the images from Syria are a mark of shame on the world, and that “if humanity does not know how to stop the slaughter of children, it has not learned anything from the past. Israel needs to do more in the diplomatic realm and in the humanitarian realm to help children whose lives are in danger because of the wars of adults.”